Thanks to Sodexo Foundation and YSA (Youth Service America), the students in my AP United States History Class at Mineola High School have been fortunate to participate in an extended service-learning program focusing on raising awareness and helping to fight the growing problem of childhood hunger.
The program, based at our school in New York, involved the students tracing the history of hunger in America and researching the depths of the problem in today’s society. The tables then turned, with the students actually teaching a number of 8th grade classes about their research and enlisting the 8th graders help in their service efforts.
There were two service initiatives. The first was a district-wide food drive to benefit Long Island Cares. During the week-long drive, 2,000 non-perishable food items were collected. Students developed innovative ways including “extreme couponing” to gather as much food as possible for donation.
The second, our largest initiative was called Mineola Macaroni Making a Difference. This was a Pasta Dinner to benefit the Mary Brennan Inn, the largest soup kitchen on Long Island which serves around 400 hot meals per day. Mineola Macaroni: Making a Difference was held on Thursday, March 29th. It was a huge success. Over 300 people attended and the students raised over $2,700.
The students together with the faculty volunteers cooked and served dinner, displayed their research, and facilitated mini service projects during the evening. Working on this project and seeing the enthusiasm and dedication of my students to our efforts was one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career. We truly became a school community working together for the greater good and our community really supported our efforts. My students’ reflections illustrate the impact of the project and the importance of service-learning:
“I loved being a part of the project. I never knew how good it could feel to spend your time and energy to help a cause that you feel very strongly about. My eyes are opened… I hope to volunteer for the rest of my life!” Katie
“It was incredible being part of this long-term project and its fantastic results. “I never saw a group of high school students do anything like this. It was at this moment that I realized just how much I had contributed to something that really made a difference. It was something to really be proud of.” Jill
“I’m inspired to continue to make the world a better place.” Janet
Students like Katie, Jill and Janet have inspired us all.
Nancy Regan is a social studies teacher at Minneola High School Garden City Park – a Sodexo Foundation School Engagement Grant Recipient.